ReEntry Theatre Program Turns Life Experiences Into Art

Written By: Isabel Garcia
ReEntry Theatre

February 22, 2016

Ithaca (WENY) -- Ithaca's community organization, Civic Ensemble, promotes theater as not only an art form, but a way to explore and express social, political, and cultural issues in modern society. One of their newest outreach efforts, which began last year, is the ReEntry Theatre Program. This is specifically designed for those who have been previously incarcerated at any point in time, whether it be one week ago, or two years ago.

     Each person in the ReEntry Theatre Program writes an original short play about their own experiences in life. Professional actors with Civic Ensemble, and all program participants, work together to bring each play to life.

     "Ithaca is a place that is very rich in raw, untapped talent. What the Civic Ensemble has done has found a way to give its participants the right tools to unlock and realize their full potential," says Christopher Hartman, one of this year's play participants.

     Christopher says he's always been interested in music and poetry, but the unique structure of the play program is allowing him to expand his creativity by learning from others.

     "You've got people in this group that have been in hardly any trouble, and you've got people who are just fresh comin out of prison that heard about it that want to participate. So like I said, you got all kinds of different people, and every one of them is highly intelligent and very talented in their own way," Hartman says.

     "We collaborate, we have to do teamwork, we learn writing. We actually learn the skill of play-writing, everything that goes around theatre and being part of a community right off the bat," explains Sarah Chalmers, Director of Civic Engagement with Civic Ensemble.

     Aside from being a platform for learning skills, the act of performing the plays for an audience and creating a dialogue is what Civic Ensemble believes is why the arts are essential.

     "For Civic Ensemble, theater and the process of making theater is integral and should be at the center of our community. Arts and culture drives change," Chalmers explains.

     When asked why people should see the play, Christopher Hartman says it will be worth your time.

     "It's going to be fun! It's going to be a great night out. And maybe they'll get to see things they've never experienced in theatre before!" Chris says.

      The plays will be presented to the public on Friday, March 25th and Saturday, March 26th at 7:30 p.m. at the Hanger Theatre in Ithaca. Plus, the performances are FREE and open to the public.

      For ticket reservations, just to ensure you have a spot, go to

Pictured below:

Christopher Hartman (left), Sarah Chalmers (right)